One of the more prevalent notions that I have read lately is that Republicans should focus on criticizing Democrats in Congress instead of President Obama due to the President’s sky high approval ratings. Conventional wisdom suggests that Republican attacks on an enormously popular Obama would likely backfire and instead hurt Republicans, while Democrats in an incredibly unpopular Congress are much more susceptible to damaging attacks. Senator Lindsey Graham today took a very different approach, taking the fight directly to the President and arguing that Obama has been “AWOL on providing leadership.”
Graham’s strategy clearly breaks with what is perceived to be the smarter — or at the very least, safer — method of winning legislative battles. His willingness to do this bears the question: can such attacks against the President be successful despite his popularity? I’m starting to think so. After all, as I touched on yesterday, Republicans are currently winning the debate on the stimulus package, and its popularity continues to diminish. Considering the GOP’s minority status in Congress and the terrible results of the 2008 election, this is quite impressive. Moreover, the image of the Obama administration has been tarnished in the early goings by an abysmal vetting process that has resulted in three separate nominees who have been involved in tax controversies.
With the economy continuing to tank and headlines constantly running about rampant corruption (Blagojevich) and tax controversies (Geithner, Killefer, and Daschle), the public continues to grow increasingly frustrated. After all, where’s the “hope” and “change” for which they just voted when they elected President Obama? Perhaps by taking a gamble and following Senator Graham’s lead in going directly after President Obama when he’s wrong, Republicans can take a step toward winning back the majority in 2010.